Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced legislation that would legalize cultivation and processing of industrial hemp. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011 (H.R. 1831), which has 21 original co-sponsors, would amend the Controlled Substances Act by removing industrial hemp from its definition of marijuana.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has endorsed the legislation.
The bill defines industrial hemp as "the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis."
Industrial hemp has numerous commercial uses. Examples include the use of hemp fiber in the manufacture of clothing, and use of the seed and seed oil in foods and cosmetics. The Hemp Industries Association estimates the total value of annual U.S. sales of hemp products, including foods, soaps, and cosmetics, to be around $360 million.
While industrial hemp may contain trace amounts of the psychoactive compounds that naturally occur in high levels in some Cannabis cultivars, it is not considered to be a substitute for marijuana, which is a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Current supplies of hemp are imported from Canada and China, where cultivation is legal. Several U.S. states have also legalized cultivation, but there is no or only limited production within the United States due to conflicts with federal law. Paul's legislation would remove that conflict.
"I am aware of only one plant that Americans are forbidden to grow but whose products we are allowed to eat, wear or apply to our skin, and that plant is hemp," said Michael McGuffin, AHPA president. "AHPA members who manufacture and market hemp products want to have the option of buying their ingredients from U.S. farmers, and Rep. Paul's bill will allow them to do so. Domestic cultivation would also provide an important economic stimulus and source of revenue for American farmers, including small family farms."
Paul introduced nearly identical legislation in each of the last three sessions of Congress and has attracted more cosponsors each subsequent time. Likelihood of passage in the 112th Congress may depend on whether companion legislation is introduced in the Senate, which has not occurred in prior attempts to get this law passed.
"AHPA is hopeful that one or more senator will see that this legislation supports American farmers and hemp marketers at the same time that it does not alter federal marijuana laws in any other way," McGuffin added.
About the American Herbal Products Association
The American Herbal Products Association is the national trade association for the voice of the herbal products industry. AHPA is comprised of domestic and foreign companies doing business as growers, processors, manufacturers and marketers of herbs, botanicals and herbal products, including foods, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and non-prescription drugs. Founded in 1982, AHPA's mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products. ahpa.org.